Fall 1999 -
After buying our 2-acre lot in October 1999, we spent many months visiting log
home companies, choosing a builder, a log home company (Amerlink Loghomes)
and starting the fun, but time-consuming, process of designing our home. Scotty Manuppella built the house next
door and watching it "go up", we were impressed! He is a builder/dealer for Amerlink, with over 20
years' experience in this valley.
We spent countless hours designing and redesigning our log home, starting with
the "empty nest" theory ("just a cabin will do") and gradually expanding to make room for
the anticipated guests and grandchildren (God willing) - we hope some of them turn up?! We've ended up with
something around 3200 sq. ft., but it still looks like a cabin from the front and will have that cabin feel:
warm and cosy.
Positioning the house on our 2 acres was critically important and the final, "scientific" measurement was
determined by standing on a step ladder! Here Jenny gazes approvingly at the view of Mt. Sopris. She
is actually standing about half way between the basement and the main floor. Marc Jaffrey is our Project
Not until November 2000 did we choose an architect - our close
friend in Dallas, TX, Dallas Taylor. In November, Dallas and his
wife, Veta, visited us in Glenwood Springs, our lot and our builder.
January - December 2000
During the course of the year, between initial discussions with our builder
and "finalizing" the cost estimates for our project, our budget expanded by about 50%. So everything
"they say" is true! We're also prepared for another 10-15% to "disappear" before all is
One of the first "challenges" with our project came when talking
with our future neighbors, Tom & Jane Alby. We saw the "mountain" of huge boulders on their
property during their construction, and learned that the excavation for their home cost 5 times the
"normal". The seam of rock almost certainly continues under our building envelope and, even though we
are avoiding the same depth of excavation as our neighbors, our budget includes $80,000 for excavation alone.
We pray it won't come anywhere near to that amount!
January - May 2001
"Elk Springs" is touted as
"Colorado's Finest Ecological Community", and our experience to date would confirm this. The Home
Owners' Association has very strict design guidelines to protect Elk Springs' natural beauty and resources.
When we bought our land we were all in favor of these restrictions, and we will be again once we've moved in,
but these five months have been extremely frustrating. Our advice: if you choose to build in an area like this,
be sure that you, your architect and builder, fully understand the guidelines, and be prepared for a lengthy,
difficult communication process that will need close managing and will definitely test your patience!
Looking back on this time we are so grateful to our architect, Dallas, for his
sensitive and professional contribution to our project. We also thank Steve Scudder from Dallas' office -
without his patience and perseverance where would we have been?!
Here's a "short" list of the problems we ran into (we're not looking
for sympathy, just hoping to educate those who may follow in our footsteps!):
- locating the house on our lot to minimize problems with re-grading (not
- garage facing the roadway - must be screened from sight
- saving trees
- roof-line must not be higher than 24 feet above the existing grade
- site plan and architects drawings must be very detailed
- structural engineers drawings required for final approval
- driveway cannot be outside building envelope
- exterior lights (light source must not be visible)
- all exterior materials and colors must be approved (stone, log stain,
Someone once told us: "Build a
house, lose a spouse"! Well, after 30 years of happy marriage, four years of living in an RV puts even
the best relationship to the test. Maybe this has been important preparation for this next period of our
lives. We will survive (the tribe has spoken!).
We have "Final Approval" from the Home Owners, and we expect to break ground next week! Phew
... at last! :o)
Spent most of the day on site. The excavation company fenced off 3 construction staging areas, and I checked
that all the trees to be removed were properly marked with red surveyor's tape - all requirements of the HOA
(Elk Springs Home Owner's Association).
Met the HOA rep. to approve the site, pay our $2000 construction deposit (refundable if no excessive road
damage is done and no other rules are broken during the construction) and $600 road use fee
(non-refundable), and to get a final signature of Final Approval! This form now must go the to County
Building Dept. for their approval.
Even though the excavation company has been on site, they still have not given us a formal bid, so
breaking ground tomorrow looks unlikely.
After two days of phone calls and faxes we finally said "yes" to the excavation company, who came
up with a bid of $55,600 and an explanation we could live with! We break ground tomorrow .... and tomorrow
and tomorrow (Shakespeare)!
This is IT!! The day we've planned for and waited for ................... a "groundbreaking"
day, and perfect weather! We arrived on site around 9am and found a small crew already at work clearing
trees. Within an hour we had a crew of 6, Troy, the crew chief, and Jeff, the owner of Rocky Mountain
Infrastructures, on site with their huge Hitachi 300 backhoe. We pray it's man enough for the job!
At 4:30 we returned to offer our first "Friday Happy Hour" to the crew and found the site
cleared and everyone gone! So, instead, we took lots of photos and video, and "partied" with our
next-door neighbors, Tom & Jane. It was, after all, time to
celebrate, even this small victory.
Now all the trees have been removed, the excavators are "scraping" the surface ready to dig. Some
problems reading the foundation design drawings were resolved ... now let's get this hole dug!
Perfect weather for the third day. Looking good: the garage is fully excavated, and work continues on the
house. So far, some good soil and lots of smaller rocks. One tough "cookie" took some brute force and
almost an hour of scraping to lower its top to the right elevation. "If it stays like this, it'll be a
breeze" said Troy.
$1200 was paid to the Elk Springs rep. to allow dumping at their site just one mile down the road, saving each
truck about 40 minutes round trip, and allowing the Hitachi to stay busy all day - all of which should save us
some $$$ ... a good thing in light of what followed.
Digging reached past the center of the house, and that's where we met ....
"Uh, oh!" ... the dreaded rock seam. By the end of the day, everything was dug that could be dug
(except the driveway and utilities trench), and the basement bedroom #1 and bathroom are one huge rock (so it
A call has gone in to two blasters - we'll have to drill and blast this
"baby", and who knows when that can be done - it may delay us a week or more, and it may cost a
bunch! Only time will tell ... patience, patience!
I spent the day clearing small stones from what will be the patio, and
clearing a path from the walk-out basement down to the "meadow".
I drove Jenny to Denver International Airport to fly to Dallas (on business, and pleasure) ... she'll be away
two weeks and expects to see a LOT of progress when she returns. Did you hear that guys?!
Slowly ... oh, so slowly!! After a one week hiatus, I expected to see Marty, the "Blaster", on site
drilling into rock; instead I found no-one, but plenty of evidence that they must have drilled already! Sure
enough Troy drove up ... Greg (Marty's man) drilled yesterday. So we're ready to blast? Well ... not exactly!
Having moved the Hitachi 300 and crew to another job, they won't be back until Friday at 4pm. So we'll still be
digging next week!
They can't blast (blast!!)
until the Hitachi is back, to move the "blasting mats" into place over the dynamite, protecting
neighboring property. The blasting mats are made of compressed, recycled tires, tied together with heavy metal
cables. On Friday they'll be laying the charges during the day, then will blast from 4-6pm roughly.
I met Jane (from next door) by "accident" (no such thing! yet
another "Godincidence"!) in town, and she and Tom will be away on Friday - great!
I met Marc (project manager) to discuss the contract, lighting and wiring
plans, etc. We need to get the Superior Wall people to deliver and install the foundation/basement walls
earlier than their scheduled date of June 13th - no more delays, PLEASE!
Another lesson in construction ... who said things ever go to plan?! Ben drove down from Edwards so he and
I could witness and film the blasting. When we arrived around 2pm ... there was no-one in sight, but there were
piles of rubble ... "they blasted yesterday" said our super neighbor Kathy (from opposite) when she
came over to chat. So Ben and I spent the afternoon exploring (there's still an awful lot of rock apparently
firmly in the ground?) and drinking the tea I had brought in a thermos. Just before 5 we left -- no sign of the
So, I missed the drilling and the blasting - BLAST!
I'm learning. I called Kathy (opposite) to check that the excavators were on site as promised. "No
sign of anyone"! I left messages for Troy and Jeff ... and Kathy said she would call if anyone turned up.
No calls! Well, at least the blasting didn't damage relationships with our neighbors!
Two steady days of digging out the blasted rubble (and some huge
rocks) has almost finished the "house hole", leaving the driveway utilities trench and backfilling
still to do. This will probably take two more days, since one of the two trucks "broke" and one truck
can't keep the digger busy.
I spent the afternoon clearing an area we plan to turf ... eventually. Being
on site allowed me to have two of the biggest rocks placed either side of the driveway as a permanent record of
this Rocky Mountain project. One was so big (about 100 cubic feet) it almost over-balanced the Hitachi as it
was moved into place!
It took 3 more days to complete excavation of the house foundations, excavating a deep trench up the driveway
for utilities (amazingly deep - below the frost line), then lay the utility pipes, refill the trench with a top
soil/gravel mix and remake the driveway. Progress has been painfully slow again because there's only one truck
running. Still, at least this job is virtually done, and we have another, even bigger rock at the entrance to
Friday's concerns are:
1. will the new "driveway" be wide and long enough to allow the crane to lower the Superior
pre-formed concrete walls into place for the garage - a long "reach"!
2. when will those walls be available? We thought they were scheduled for June 13th, but there are rumors
Sure enough - June 22nd is the date the walls are scheduled to be delivered, but they will try to bring it
forward if possible. One reason for the delay - a good one - is that inevitable "overblasting" has
given us a "fuller" basement than planned, so the foundation wall design had to change to accommodate
the extra space. Good news - bad news!
Here's how it panned out with our "Superior Walls":
18th: "looks like the 21st"
20th: "we'll be on site to do the prep. work on the 22nd"
22nd: "delayed until Monday 25th"
25th: "sorry - major problem with another job ... tomorrow"
26th: "lost a truck in a major highway accident ... tomorrow"
27th: "very complex foundation ... tomorrow morning"
28th: "be there this afternoon ..."
"Superior" arrived FINALLY at 2:30pm. Then we found the crane was too big to safely negotiate the
gravel driveway beside our 10' deep hole in the ground (all we have to show for the past 6 weeks!) We proceeded
to chain-saw down two trees - it was a blessing that I had a borrowed chain saw on site (thanks David!!) to
trim some dead limbs. We then moved several sizable rocks, and the crane safely moved into position. However,
after having heard that the walls would arrive at 8am tomorrow, we are told it will be 12:30 instead. This is
when my patience finally deserted. Dave Hussey, the owner of Superior (who will be a neighbor of ours!), came
down for a "discussion" ............!
By lunchtime the truck had arrived with the first of two loads of our concrete walls - the good news! Soon, the
crane driver, truck driver and the rest of the crew were scratching their heads. The bad news: the crane cannot
setup safely, because the gravel drive is sloping too much, and the 18-wheeler cannot back down our winding
driveway between the trees. The solution: two more trees must come down and numerous rocks must be moved to
widen part of the driveway by four feet, and a backhoe and a load of gravel will be needed to level the site
for the crane. This will happen on Monday morning, since nobody works on Saturday!! I believe we could have
"poured" a complete, traditional basement by now - and time-saving was the main reason for selecting
We expected to break ground by mid April - we finally did May 18th. We expected to have a
"dried-in" house (complete with roof, doors and windows) about now. We have a huge hole! We've also
had perfect construction weather ...! Lord please give us three more months of perfect weather with few delays
and problems, and grant me a bucketful of patience!
Come back soon to check on our progress (and if you're so inclined, say a little prayer on our behalf!)